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4) In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

It seems odd that Paul would refer to Satan as "...the god of this world". Is verse 4 in reference to God?

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I am quite certain, though, that Paul did not use the word cosmos there but rather was he referring to the god of this aion, of this time and age irreverent to the good news of God and his Christ. –  hannes Jul 24 '13 at 20:18
If Satan is in view here, that would imply a "god" that blinds (Satan), and the true God that illuminates. Seems a bit dualistic to me. Also, the context of the verse does not seem to implicate Satan in blinding unbelievers. Could Paul have meant God blinds unbelievers? That seems to flow with John 12:40, Romans 1:28, and 2 Thess 2:11. –  wilberteric Jul 25 '13 at 10:12

5 Answers 5

The New Testament actually commonly refers to the devil as a prince or god of this world.

For example:

Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. (NIV, John 12:31)

I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me (NIV, John 14:30)

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (NIV, Matthew 4:8–9)

As for you, you were dead in your in which you used to live transgressions and sins, when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (NIV, Ephesians 2:2)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (NIV, Ephesians 6:12)

At first it might seem non-intuative to attribute so much power to the Devil, but when understanding the world as being under the power of sin and that sin being something brought into the world by his temptation of Adam and Eve, it is not so surprising or unnatural to view the world as fallen under his power.

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If the prince of the world (Satan) was indeed driven out by Christ (John 12:31), why would Paul ascribe Satan as "god of this world"? That would imply Satan has power unchecked by God. –  wilberteric Jul 27 '13 at 23:02
@wilberteric - no, once he has the designation 'prince of the world' the matter is already settled. The Devil being driven out in this sense is commonly understood as the very significant weakening of the power of his kingdom through the death and resurrection of Christ. This is especially true over pagans who were now drawn into the church by the new post messianic age, where Satan is less powerful over them. –  Mike Jul 28 '13 at 2:04

It should read "god of the age". At the beginning of this age the adversary (satan) said to the Anointed One to fall down and worship him and he will give him all the kingdoms of this world. He seems to have the authority because he says "it has been delivered unto me". That's why this age is called the "present hurtful age".

It appears he cannot rule openly, so he asked the Anointed One to serve him so that he could rule thru him. That was at the beginning of this age, so it makes sense that he rules at the end of this age thru his own anointed one. The man of lawlessness' presence is after the working of the adversary and he will give him the rule and authority because the kingdoms of this age are delivered unto him, hence "the god of the age". The Father is called the King of the ages, not just one age.

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For the past few months, my home church has been going through the apostle John's "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" during the main preaching service. A few weeks ago, I was privileged to lead an adult class immediately after one of the sermons on Revelation.

Taking a macro view of things (as I am wont to do), I encouraged that class to view the grand arc of the history of time from God's perspective. My organizing outline can be summarized with three Cs. They are:

the Cosmic war

the Cross of Christ

the Church of God

"In the beginning God." Before His creation of the material universe and before His creation of the angels, God existed as the "Great I Am." Eternally existent, God is complete in Himself, and He neither needs nor is He somehow completed by having created finite and sentient beings.

The mighty angels He brought into existence, who in the Bible are alternately called "Sons of God," "ministering spirits," "winds," "ministers and flames of fire," "holy angels," and more, were and are the first finite beings to worship and serve the living God. This was only fitting and proper, since God is infinitely worthy to be worshiped and served.

When Lucifer rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven along with perhaps a third of the angelic host who allied themselves with him, a war of cosmic proportions erupted in God's universe. This is the first C of my "three-point sermon(!)." Christians must not fail to see this aspect of the "big picture."

While theodicy is beyond the scope of my answer, I will suggest that any good theodicy has to deal somehow with God's having created sentient beings to whom He gave volition. There is something in the character of God that prompted Him to give both the celestial and terrestrial beings whom He created in His image (yes, the angels were in some sense created in His image) the ability to choose freely to worship and serve Him.

Lucifer and his cohorts chose not to fulfill their God-given privilege and responsibility of worshiping and serving YHWH and were thus cast out of heaven. Since then, Satan (Ge 3:1-5; 1 Ch 21:1; Job 1 and 2; Ze 3:1,2) and his minions have been actively opposing the purposes and plans of God through an organized campaign born of hatred for God and carried out through sin, deception, temptation, death, and destruction. Praise God, Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn 3:8), and His plan to do so came to fruition in a way that is not only consistent with His holy and perfect character, but it cannot be defeated, which brings us to the second C: the cross of Christ.

Jesus, the eternally begotten Son of the eternal God, is described in Scriptures as a lamb that was slain before the foundation/creation of the world (1 Pe 1:19,20), whose shed blood cleanses and redeems those who, unlike the devil, choose to obey the truth as it is found in the One who described Himself as the truth (Jn 14:6).

In the mind of God, the war between the host of evil and God (and the people of God) is a fait accompli. In that sense, then, "the ruler of this world will be cast/driven out" (Jn 12:31). This casting out of Satan began in eternity past, was accomplished judicially at the cross of Christ (which by the way provides the context for John 12:31), and will be completed someday in time and space (see Re 20:3,10).

In the John 12 passage, the Greek word for "cast out" or "driven out" is ekballo, and ballo is the Greek word for "threw" or "thrown" in the Revelation 20 passage. There is therefore both a past- and a future aspect to Satan's being cast/driven/thrown out by God. Much more important of the two, in my opinion, is the casting out that occurred at the cross and subsequent resurrection, where Christ triumphed over the hosts of evil and led captivity captive, having

"made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Col 2:15).

At the cross Jesus disarmed the infernal powers and authorities. At the cross God dealt Satan a death blow, the crushing of Satan's head foretold in Ge 3:15, but there is still work to be done, which brings us to the third C: the Church of God.

In the interim between the cross, on the one hand, and God's new heaven and new earth in which only righteousness dwells--free of sin and unrighteousness forever (Re 21:1), on the other hand, there is the Church Age. While Satan and his minions have been stripped of their armor (which is perhaps a better description of what Paul meant by his term "disarmed" in Colossians 2:15) and are thus subject to Christ and His Church in a way that could not and would not have been possible apart from the death and resurrection of Christ, they are not totally impotent.

Today, God is in the process of building His Church Universal, of which Jesus said,

" . . . and on this rock [i.e., that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God] I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it" (Mt 16:15-18).

In a sense (and covenant theologians may disagree with me on this point), the Church Age had its beginning on the day of Pentecost, and it will have its consummation at the wedding feast of the Lamb, where Christ's bride, the Church, will be united to her groom in an eternal marriage. That marriage is an "arranged" marriage, by the way, and it was arranged in eternity past by an all wise and all loving God who in love is calling out from the world that is temporarily under the influence of its god--small G--a people from every tongue and tribe who by obeying the gospel of His Son are destined for glory in heaven forever.

Remember, a god with a small G is no match for God with a capital G. The teaching of Scripture is clear: the ultimate defeat in time and space of the god of this world system (< Gk. cosmos) is assured, and the defeat of the various gods/idols he offers humanity, which are in reality no gods, is also assured. In the meantime God is building His Church one living stone at a time, until the superstructure, which is based on Christ, the chief cornerstone, is completed (1 Pe 2:4-10).

That Church--a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God--is being called out of darkness and into God's wonderful light. Until the last living stone is finally added to the Church, God's people still have to struggle with the world system and its many idols, all of which are summed up in John's big three:

"the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 Jn 1:15-17).

Christ's Church, however, will ultimately be victorious, and we have Jesus' word on it (Mt 16:17)!

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You present a compelling argument. Yet this would be the first and only scriptural passage that ascribes "blinding" or similar spiritual "hardening" to Satan. Scripture only records the Lord as One who hardens or blinds. Pharaoh for one. Also consider: "O LORD, why dost thou make us err from thy ways and harden our heart...Isaiah 63:17. Also, "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him." Jn 12:37-41. –  wilberteric Jul 30 '13 at 1:11
As is so often the case, the answer to your second, unstated question about spiritual blindness, is not either/or, but both/and. Satan has no power or authority but that which was given him by God. God, for His own purposes and according to His own eternal decrees, instead of simply annihilating Satan gave him enough rope to hang himself--eventually. Until that time (Re 20:10), God allows Satan to wreak havoc, within limits, in his sphere of influence, which is the world system (cosmos). The cosmos, by the way, subsumes all the lesser kingdoms of the earth, except the kingdom of God! –  rhetorician Jul 30 '13 at 19:44
The fuel that empowers Satan's kingdom is a high octane mixture of "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 Jn 2:15-17). The lust of the eyes blinds us to the true and unfading beauties of God's invisible kingdom and did NOT originate in God. This blindness is a substitute for belief, a satanic counterfeit of no eternal value. The blindness of which Isaiah spoke and John quoted in Jn 12:40, on the other hand, is a punishment by God on unbelievers for their unbelief, despite the miraculous signs Jesus performed in their presence. –  rhetorician Jul 30 '13 at 20:23
In conclusion, BOTH Satan AND God blind unbelievers: Satan, as a way to distract us FROM true belief by offering us a temporarily but ultimately unsatisfying false belief; and God, as a punishment FOR blatant, willing, and eyes-wide-open unbelief. It's not a matter of either/or, but both/and. –  rhetorician Jul 30 '13 at 20:27

I do not see it as odd. Paul was speaking to converted Gentiles, not Jews, so the identification of gods and daemons is plausible; by extension, the singularisation of gods into a ‘god of this world’ would naturally be understood as referring to Satan.

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The "world" often refers in the Bible to a way of thinking that is antithetical to the way God thinks eg 1 John 2:15, 16. Genesis 3 teaches us clearly that it is that old serpent, Satan, who is the arch enemy of God's ways and the well-being of mankind. Hence the god of this world is Satan who blinded our first parents and has been seeking to do the same ever since.


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